History of Landscape Architecture

Landscape architecture in British Columbia dates back to the early part of the 20th Century, with such notable designs as Beacon Hill Park and the neighbourhood of Uplands in Victoria. Since then, many singular projects such as Park & Tilford Gardens, Robson Square, Van Dusen and UBC Botanical Gardens, and Whistler Village have demonstrated that local landscape architects offer skills well beyond a working knowledge of plant material and residential garden design.

The BC Society of Landscape Architects (BCSLA) was founded in 1964 by a group of individuals with backgrounds in landscape architecture, construction, plant science, horticulture, nursery production, and architecture. The early members of the BCSLA were instrumental in shaping the way we work today, contributing to the development of the municipal approvals process, and actively participating in the founding of Advisory Design Panels in a number of municipalities. With the introduction of provincial legislation in 1968, landscape architecture became an essential component of the development process in many municipal jurisdictions.

Today, the profession continues to grow, and built works showcase the increasingly varied work of landscape architects.


Origins of the British Columbia Society of Landscape Architects

The following timeline is a condensed version of the history of the Society originally compiled for the BCSLA by Philip Tattersfield in the 1980’s.              By Julie Hicks, MBCSLA


Early 1950’s       Prior to the establishment of the first landscape architectural practices in British Columbia, “landscape architecture” was practiced by individuals with diverse backgrounds in horticulture, contracting, and nursery production.


1955                 Some of BC’s early practitioners banded together to form the BC Landscape Association. Charter members of this group were: John Phillipo, David Hunter, William Livingstone, Lloyd Smith, Leslie Clay Sr., and Philip Tattersfield. These members were later joined by Raoul Robillard, Peter Jeck, Henry Eddy, Gunther Tichauer, Henry Hoschardt, and Highland Barnes.


1954 - 57          The California Association of Landscape Architects started a Federal Chapter called the American Institute of Landscape Architects in 1954.      

                        Philip Tattersfield, who was working in California in 1957, was accepted into the American Institute of Landscape Architects as the member-at-large for British Columbia. As member-at-large, Tattersfield endeavoured to interest fellow practitioners in membership of the AILA with the intent of gaining sufficient interest and numbers to form a BC Chapter.

                        Tattersfield’s work in the BC brought him into contact with Barbara Mather of North Vancouver. Tattersfield and Mather jointly approached the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects and Town Planners to set up a BC chapter. This request was repeated at intervals for several years until it was finally granted in 1976.


1958                 The BC Landscape Association grew into the Horticultural Trades Association which later amalgamated with the BC Nurserymen’s Association (first established in 1929). The amalgamated group operated under the banner of the BC Nursery Trades Association—until 1977, when the name was changed to the BC Landscape and Nursery Association.


1960                 A lunch meeting was held at the Hotel Georgia on the 12th of September for those who might be interested in forming a BC Chapter of the American Institute of Landscape Architects. Attendees met a delegation of members from AILA Headquarters in California. As a result of this discussion Tattersfield, as member-at-large, was asked to call an organizational meeting for those potentially interested in the creation of a professional body to represent the interests of Landscape Architects.

                        On October 26, 1960 a meeting was held in the Conference Room of the Buildings and Grounds Offices at UBC. The following were in attendance: Heinz Berger, Einer Brodersen, Leslie Clay Sr., Leslie Clay Jr., Clive Justice, William Livingstone, Lougher Goodly, Vernon McCann, John Neill, Michael Pope, Robert Savery, Philip Tattersfield, and Harry Webb. At that meeting, a motion was moved by Brodersen and seconded by Clay Sr., “That a temporary Chapter of the American Institute of Landscape Architects be formed, and that a working committee to that end be nominated to process application forms and forward them to AILA headquarters for acceptance.”

                        The meeting then nominated John Neill as chairman of the Working Committee, and Justice, Tattersfield and Savery as members.


1961                 The committee had sent out approximately twenty application forms of which nine had been received and forwarded to AILA in California for approval. Having secured one more member than the minimum required to form a chapter of the AILA, an inaugural meeting was held at the UBC Faculty Club on January 18th, 1961. Those in attendance became the charter members of the BC Chapter of the AILA: John Neill, Clive Justice, Philip Tattersfield, Heinz Berger, Bernard Bishop, Einer Brodersen, Robert Savery, Michael Pope, and Harry Webb. The meeting elected John Neill as President, Clive Justice as Vice President, and Philip Tattersfield as Secretary.

                        A crucial outcome of that first meeting was the decision that all prospective members of the BC Chapter of the AILA, as a pre qualification of membership, should receive the bulk of their income from the practice of Landscape Architecture.

                        The AILA offered financial and professional support to the Chapter as it took its first steps on the road to full professional status.


1962                 Twelve members, BC Chapter of the AILA


1963                 Fifteen members, BC Chapter of the AILA


1964                 A decision was made by the BC Chapter of the AILA to incorporate a sister organization as the British Columbia Society of Landscape Architects under the BC Societies Act. The BCSLA was established with a constitution and bylaws modeled upon those of the AILA. The charter for the new Society was granted on April 21st, 1964 with a total of 20 members.

                        At this time the British Columbia Society of Landscape Architects included a broader group of professional members than the BC Chapter of the AILA. Over time the BCSLA became the dominant entity, but some members retained their interest in the AILA as members-at-large. The AILA gracefully acknowledged the emergence of a strong Provincial Society when the BCSLA chose to operate independently of the AILA.


1966                 Following comments that “professional organizations should become self regulating” made by Dr. Ralph Loffmark, then the BC Minister of Trade and Industry, members of the BCSLA began to discuss the formation of a Landscape Architects Act. The fall of 1966 saw the Directors of the BCSLA pursue the idea of Provincial Legislation. Each of the 20 BCSLA members was assessed $100.00 to help defray the costs of this legal undertaking.


1968                 On April 6th 1968, the Act Respecting Landscape Architects was given Royal Assent. From this date forward the title “Landscape Architect” was the prerogative of members in good standing of the British Columbia Society of Landscape Architects. Anyone wishing to practice professionally under this title had to apply for membership in the Society.